YO, CANADA!

St. Mary’s, Kans.

While I agree with Richard Pollak’s “Patriot at the Bat” [Sept. 13], on Carlos Delgado’s tribulations from his protest against the playing of “God Bless America,” one point he neglected, and that has been ignored in other commentaries, is that Toronto is in Canada. Delgado draws his $18 million-plus salary from a Canadian company, patronized overwhelmingly by Canadian fans. This fact, which some of Delgado’s critics seem unaware of, makes the accusations of his being un-American somewhat beside the point. Canada has not been a member of the Coalition of the Willing, or the “Coalition of the Idiots,” as Carolyn Parrish, a Toronto-area Member of Parliament recently called it. Canadians have no troops in Iraq and reportedly are much more hostile to the United States since the start of the Iraq war. At a Montreal Canadiens game just after the invasion in March 2003, Montreal fans loudly booed the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” What is really surprising is that only one player among the several Canadian professional sports teams has taken a stand to protest this stupid war.

CHAS BAYLOR


THE REICH STUFF?

New York City

Jonathan Schell’s “Letter From Ground Zero” [Aug. 2/9] pinpointed for me the cause of my increasing sense over the past three years that I am living in 1930s Germany. The Bush regime’s blithe disregard or erasure of law resembles nothing more than Hitler’s, as described by Hannah Arendt in The Origins of Totalitarianism. The Nazis did not, she explained, dismantle existing law but merely disregarded it, creating parallel agencies to take over the functions of the old ones, using Nazi guidelines. The populace seemingly did not even notice. Here, people have noticed–at least some people–but we have been almost helpless to stop it. I dislike facile comparisons, and have been uneasy about my increasing feeling that we–Americans–are being taken over by a power hostile to what many of us regard as bedrock principle. Schell has clarified the situation for me. Thanks.

MARILYN FRENCH


SAID & SARTRE ON VIOLENCE

Santa Barbara, Calif.

While I welcome Tony Judt’s full-bodied and vigorous appreciation of Edward Said [“The Rootless Cosmopolitan,” July 19/26], it need not be bought at Sartre’s expense. Said’s stated and unstated position on violence “toward the ends of justice and in pursuit of realizing humanist values and democratic principles” was in spirit, if not letter, clearly closer to Camus’s than to Sartre’s. Nonetheless, Sartre’s advocacy of political and revolutionary violence was not ill-considered or without some hesitancy–however (in retrospect) wrong-headed and regrettable–as any fine-grained examination of his changing political views over the course of his adult life reveals. Furthermore, Said’s “firsthand experience of physical force” can hardly be valorized by way of contrast to Sartre’s experience. Both Sartre and de Beauvoir had firsthand experience of personal intimidation, death threats and physical violence, in particular in conjunction with their opposition to French colonialism in Algeria. Sartre’s flat at 42 Rue Bonaparte was bombed twice: on July 19, 1961, and January 7, 1962, most likely by the Organisation de l’Armée Secrète. Not without reason does Ronald Hayman’s 1987 biography of Sartre have a chapter titled “Kill Sartre.” And both Sartre and de Beauvoir participated in demonstrations that involved some measure of personal risk.

PATRICK S. O’DONNELL


JUDT REPLIES

New York City

Patrick O’Donnell is quite right: Sartre’s flat was indeed attacked, probably by the OAS. But it seems to me disingenuous to compare Sartre’s or de Beauvoir’s participation in mass public demonstrations, surrounded by thousands of fellow-thinkers and volunteer bodyguards, with Said’s decadeslong isolation and exposure to vituperation, aggression and death threats. Sartre could indulge himself in any amount of “regrettable” or “wrong-headed” political misbehavior, secure in the knowledge that he had the protection of the very top levels of the French state. As de Gaulle put it, instructing his colleagues never to respond to Sartre’s provocations: “You don’t arrest Voltaire.” With that kind of assurance from on high, political courage comes cheap.

As for Sartre’s incitements to political murder, O’Donnell is probably correct to insist that they were consistent with his broader political ideas. But in that case the contrast with Said is even sharper than I suggested–and reflects little credit on the Frenchman.

TONY JUDT


AS BOLIVIA TURNS…

La Paz, Bolivia

As a Bolivian congressman, I was dismayed by Tom Hayden’s one-sided June 21 article, “Bolivia’s Indian Revolt.” His sources are prominent radical and violent leaders: Alvaro Garcia Linera, described as a “former guerrilla and political prisoner,” was jailed for such activities as blowing up buildings and power plants, organizing criminal actions, planning guerrilla warfare and exacerbating ethnic tensions. Felipe Quispe is also a convicted terrorist and an outspoken advocate of racist, violent and criminal actions. He has supported lynching and burning people alive, expressed admiration for Shining Path leader Abimael Guzman and asserted after 9/11, “We need actions like that to destroy the enemy. We salute in a fraternal and revolutionary way all who did this.”

This biased portrayal based on the accounts of radical and violent leaders ignores the views of most of Bolivia’s 8 million peaceful inhabitants. Since the restoration of democracy in 1982, Bolivia has made slow but steady economic and social progress, including for rural Indians. Former President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada was democratically elected in 1993 and 2002. Regrettably, in October 2003 his government was toppled through violent and undemocratic means by a mob-style movement in which Alvaro Garcia, Evo Morales and Felipe Quispe played a key role.

I do not wish to gloss over the many troubles my small, poor country faces; nor do I pretend the Sánchez de Lozada government was perfect. I believe it is the lack of US support instead of its alleged influence that not only contributed to the downfall of our democratically elected government but has put our country at the mercy of radical fundamentalists, financed by people like Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez and supported by Cuba’s Fidel Castro. Our future lies neither in succumbing to populists’ slick promises nor in surrendering to mob rule but in continuing to strengthen democracy and democratic institutions.

LUIS EDUARDO SILES PEREZ
National Representative


Asheville, NC

Tom Hayden did not note that the natural gas at the center of Bolivia’s upheaval lies in the lowlands, not the Andes; that the president overthrown in October had overwhelming support in those lowlands (as did his suspended plans to export natural gas); that the cocalero leader Evo Morales and other more radicalized Andean leaders not only have minuscule support in the lowlands but are generally viewed with outright hostility there; and that the demographic and economic center of the nation is shifting eastward–again, toward the lowlands. The rebellions in the highland streets of La Paz and Cochabamba were viewed with dismay in the lowland streets of Santa Cruz de la Sierra (which by many estimates is now Bolivia’s largest city; it is certainly its wealthiest). The lowland population is far less “Indian” than in the highlands; at the same time, many lowland indigenous communities have chosen alliance with regional over highland movements. The truly volatile divide in Bolivia is between its Andean west and its tropical east. For his next visit, I hope Hayden makes it down from the mountains to learn about the other two-thirds of the country.

KATHLEEN LOWREY


Syracuse, NY

To portray the gas war and other protests as an “indigenous insurrection” is a gross simplification. These historically rooted conflicts involve ethnic and class struggles and are not simply “Indian uprisings.” Most of Bolivia’s people, including the vast majority of its urban poor and rural populations, are indeed Quechua, Aymara, Guaran’ or from other indigenous groups. But Bolivia’s ethnic politics are inextricably bound up with its class relations. The Quechua- and Aymara-speaking miners who marched on La Paz (led by Bolivia’s largest labor union) and played such a crucial role in forcing Sánchez de Lozada’s resignation did so as miners, not as Quechuas or Aymaras. In the Andean countryside Quechua- and Aymara-speakers rarely use “ind’gena” or “indio” as terms of self-identification (terms favored by urban intellectuals). The label of choice is campesino. The October protests were an indigenous uprising, certainly. But they were also, simultaneously and inseparably, class struggle.

TOM PERREAULT


Ithaca, NY

Tom Hayden does a good job of drawing on some of the most insightful observers, but he fails to mention that Bolivia’s problems are the maturation of neoliberal privatization policies promoted by the World Bank and the IMF for twenty years. The IMF, for example, has threatened to withhold concessionary funding if Bolivia does not export its gas under what many consider unfavorable conditions. He also ignores the role of the 1997 oil and gas privatization in the economic crisis that underlies the political meltdown. Hydrocarbon income contributed 50 percent of all government revenues through the 1990s, and the loss of these revenues (to companies including Enron) is a principal factor.

LINDA FARTHING and BEN KOHL


HAYDEN REPLIES

Los Angeles

It is certainly true, as Tom Perreault writes, that the uprisings have a class character. But there is a profound racial divide, with more than 60 percent of the people classified as indigenous–most of them poor and marginal. Both the New York Times and Los Angeles Times have remarked on the Indian character of these uprisings, as well as others since Chiapas in 1994.

The “lowlanders” mentioned by Kathleen Lowrey are indeed wealthier. Places like Santa Cruz are home to the white, privileged, business and middle classes most disturbed by the emergence of a militant indigenous majority claiming a voice in proportion to their numbers.

The draconian economic policies of the IMF, as Linda Farthing and Ben Kohl note, helped prompt the overthrow of President “Goni” and causes continuing political unrest. Unfortunately, top Democrats like James Carville and Stanley Greenberg also bear responsibility for being paid advisers for Goni’s politics of privatization during their missionary phase of NAFTA promotion.

As for the rant of Congressman Luis Eduardo Siles Perez, the tone of Bolivian politics makes internal Nation disputes seem positively Gandhian. It is true that Garcia Linera and Quispe are former guerrillas, as my article stated, which is nothing new in the history of Latin American politics. The question is when, if ever, the long-oppressed Indian majority in white-dominated Bolivia will achieve self-determination. The congressman glosses the fact that his indigenous colleague, Evo Morales, head of the coca growers’ union and the Movement Toward Socialism, may well come to power through the ballot box. Will the US government, with its “war” on drugs and neoliberal economic policies, stand by if the Indian majority unites behind Morales? Or will it move against what the congressman calls Morales’s “mob-style” politics?

TOM HAYDEN